Sunday, May 05, 2013

Gujarat's 1st leopard park to come up in Sasan Gir

Gujarat's 1st leopard park to come up in Sasan Gir
Times of India

Gujarat may be losing some Asiatic lions - its main tourist attraction - to the neighbouring Madhya Pradesh, but it will soon have leopards to attract more visitors to Sasan Gir.

The state government has decided to establish Gujarat's first leopard park in the Gir lion sanctuary for better conservation of wildcat species.

A senior official associated with the new project said, "Gir is known for lions but the leopard is also one of the major wild species in the area that is less visible. For better conservation of the leopard population of Gir, we have decided to establish an exclusive leopard park in the sanctuary where the tourists can easily see the leopards in their natural habitat."

The process of appointment of a consultant for designing the park has started. The official said the proposed park will be spread over about 30 acres of land. There will be a fence to prevent leopards from escaping the area. The park will have toughened glass tubes and vehicle passages from where the tourists will be able to see the big cats in the wild.

"Man-eater leopards will also be rehabilitated here. We do not want to keep them in captivity in zoos. There would be better conservation if they live in the wild," said the official.

According to 2011 census, the population of leopards in the sanctuary - spread over 1,412 sq km in Junagadh - touched the 450 mark, almost at par with the Asiatic lions. Out of these, nearly 170 have dispersed to the peripheral areas on the coastline. This has become a cause for concern for humans, especially labourers working in mine and sugarcane fields in Veraval and Kodinar talukas.

The shrinking natural habitat coupled with increasing population has led to dispersion of these two big cats outside forest areas. They generally take shelter in mango and sugarcane fields for days.

Leopard is an opportunistic hunter that prefers to stay in the revenue areas which increases the chances of conflict with humans.

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